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…spontaneously fermenting

Welcome (Back) to Georgia Part I

Clay Qvevri ready to be burried neck-deep in the ground in the outdoor cellars, called Marani

Let’s go back let’s say, 7000 years, to 5000 B.C. … a time when grape-pip findings suggest that this country may be responsible for some of the first winemaking, and artifacts of the same age to help support this theory.  Georgia is unique in that, today, they still employ pre-classical winemaking techniques such as fermenting and storing wine in earthenware vessels known as Qvevri, (aka – amphorae), buried neck deep in the soil in the outdoor cellars, called Marani.

crushed grapes in Qvevri

hermitically sealing Qvevri

In these Qvevri you’ll find trodden grapes: skins, stalks and all!  These Qvevri are then hermetically sealed and left alone for months. The Georgians have been making wine in this way for at least 5,000 years, and they’re still doing this today.  It’s important to remember that wine is native to Georgia!

Very often winemaking is done with no chemical intervention both in the vineyards and in the cellar.   The resulting wine, which is be fermented either dry (without sugar) or not dry, can be extremely aromatic and seriously tannic.  And I mean seriously tannic!

The Georgian Wine Society

Georgia has 3 historic wine regions: Kakheti (more than 2/3 of all Georgian grapes are grown here); Kartli (where Qvevri are rare); and Imereti. (See map above)

The most commonly grown grape in Georgia is the Rkatsiteli, (pronounced rkah-tsee-tely, and directly translated means “red vine”).  This is perhaps the world’s second most planted white grape variety, the Italian variety Trebbiano being the first. The Rkatsiteli probably produces less wine (then the Trebbiano) and accounts for about half of the wine production in Georgia.  It used to be the most popular wine grape in the Soviet Union, due in part to its resistance to harsh winters and partly to  its universality.  The Rkatsiteli’s high acidity and maturity gives it the ability to make quality wine and quality spirit.  Even with all this talk of quantity, this is still considered a quality grape producing wines that can have style, character and refreshingly high acidity.  Good examples are full of spicy, floral aromas that can remind us of tannic versions of Alsatian wines.  If you’re curious about these wines and want to know more about what they look, smell and taste like, you’ll find out in Part II.

Category: 1 WINE, biodynamic wine, Georgia, Kakheti, Welcome (Back) to Georgia

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A tasting note: 2005 Vodopivec Vitovska Amphora

2009-06-02_620091680Date tasted:  June 2nd, 2009 15:00 (3pm)

In the hills and mountains of Friuli-Venezia Giulia in North Eastern Italy, there are a group of winemakers that wish to make wine like they did centuries ago.  They farm organically and believe very firmly in the principles of natural wine making.  Ancient methods of cultivation are employed and the white wines are treated to extended maceration periods on the skins, producing “orange” wines.   Indigenous yeasts are used without the use of temperature control.  Fermentation takes place naturally and spontaneously.  In some cases, this takes place outdoors in large terracotta Amphorae.

The Vodopivec brothers’  Valter and Paolo’s winery is about 20 minutes north of Trieste, near the Slovenian border.  The brothers own a nursery and are plant and flower experts.  They have been making wine since 1995.  Up until the 2005 vintage, they have always used big Botti, now they are also using Amphorae.

The Vodopivec brothers usually bottle two different wines from the Vitovska grape.  The Vitovska grape is a vine with a greenish-gold berry that has always been cultivated in area of Trieste.  The name of the vine is undoubtedly of Slovenian origin, and was often called Vitovska Garganija.   The top bottling is the Solo, comprised of the top selection of grapes from older vines.  The second bottling is their second selection.

2005 was a challenging vintage with an overabundance of rain, therefore only one (hand) harvest was made. The Solo cuvée was not produced.  After harvesting, approximately 70% of the grapes were then fermented in Botti, the remaining 30% in Amphorae.  The wine was macerated with the skins for around 70 days.  Only indigenous yeast, no filtration, no treatments.  The botti were sprayed with about 10mg/liter of sulfur about 2 weeks before the harvest to “sterilize”.  The Amphorae were not sprayed.

There were two bottlings for the declassified 2005 vintage.  The wine fermented and aged in Amphorae has an orange stripe on the label.  The wine fermented and aged in Botti has a green stripe on the label.  This bottle was the Amphorae version.  Price in Norwegian Kroner is 320 ($50)

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Appearance: Apricot, amber color. Clean. Medium plus intensity.

Nose: Spice, Cinnamon. Kumquat, Umami and orange peel.  Very intense and complex nose.  Keeps you going back to the glass to smell and smell again.  Also leaves the impression that this wine could be very fruity or even sweet.

Palate: Medium tannins and extremely focused fruit.  Orange peel and touches of spice.  Medium plus, mature acidity with a smooth, long and elegant finish.  Bone dry.  Really complex with some minerality on the finish.  Best enjoyed at closer to room temperature.  Goes very well with mature goat cheese.  I have also found success pairing this wine with pork belly in an Asian inspired sauce.

Although extremely enjoyable now in it’s youth, the wine’s concentration indicates to me the potential to lay down in the cellar for 5-8 years; perhaps more.

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Category: 1 WINE, 3 TASTING NOTES, Friuli-Venezia Giulia, Italy, natural wine (100% living wine), orange wine

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About
Vinosseur is the company name of sommelier Joseph R. Di Blasi. Vinosseur.com is his web page where he writes about wine, food, restaurants and other gastronomic experiences.

Joseph has a special place in his heart for quality wines from the old world, especially France & Italy, with a strong focus on Organic, Biodynamic and Natural wines.

Joseph grew up in Italy and California, but left The States in 2002 and now resides in Poland.

Get in touch

Joseph would love to hear from you! You can contact him by email at vinosseur@gmail.com